The National Catholic Review
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Vatican officials met with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, on June 5 in Rome to discuss ideas that came out of the Saudi-sponsored World Conference of Dialogue in Spain in 2008. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, met with the prince for the closed-door deliberations. The 2008 conference in Madrid brought together representatives of the major religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as hundreds of religious, political and cultural figures. The conference addressed common concerns for all religions, such as morality and protecting the environment. The Vatican and Saudi Arabia do not have formal diplomatic ties, but King Abdullah met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, the first such meeting between a pope and a reigning Saudi monarch. The public practice of religions other than Islam is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican has repeatedly asserted the importance of religious freedom.